Bodyshops fear congestion crisis over courtesy cars

Bodyshops fear the London congestion charge will increase administration costs when it is introduced next week.

Bodyshop magazine publisher Chris Mann said bodyshops would be taking extra administrative strain when issuing courtesy cars to customers.

"They have to know exactly who has the car and when and could very easily charge the wrong person," he said.

"Bodyshops are responsible for paying for courtesy cars, but how easy will it be for them to get money for the congestion charge from the customers?"

He said bodyshops were not getting paid to supply courtesy cars. "I suspect this situation is something insurers don't want to get involved in," he said.

A Churchill spokeswoman said the insurer was not concerned about the congestion charge. She said customers would be charged accordingly.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car UK sales manager James Ware agreed that the administrative burden for bodyshops would be "enormous".

"We have a computer systems which diarises where the car is and when. Bodyshops do not have such a robust system," he said.

"Customers also need to be aware of the charge and take the necessary responsibility."

Mann also warned insurers against cost-cutting techniques in light of the increased pressure on repair centres. "Insurers are looking at ways to contain costs and so pass the costs down the line to the bodyshops."

"They think they are saving money but they are not."

He stressed the importance of repair centres to insurers and said: "If there were no bodyshops, what would insurers do?"

Mann said insurers in the UK failed to apply pressure to speed up the repair process and took no responsibility if a supply problem arose. The onus, he said, was on the bodyshop.

"I'd like to see a similar situation happen like in the US," said Mann.

"Motorists pay an additional fee to the premium which entitles them to a loan car. This is paid for by the insurance company. The bodyshops also have car hire counters. If motorists choose not to pay the additional premium, they get a loan car for three days and are then offered a competitive deal with a rental company."

  • The congestion charge will also hit building repair networks, according to GAB Robins' Sergon. It will incur cost increases of a few percent for repair jobs that will be carried out within the central London congestion charge area.

    Sergon said that while this will not have a substantial effect because of the relatively low number of jobs undertaken in the area, any further expansion in congestion charging would have to be made up.

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